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Perspective: What's on the table tonight?


Think of how much time each day is spent figuring out our meals: What’re we gonna have for dinner? Are we out of milk again? When the heck am I supposed to run to the store? Do we have time to eat before soccer practice? Why did you wait ‘til 9 o’clock to tell me you needed a lunch for your field trip tomorrow?

Sheesh. It’s a full-time job. Imagine adding to that “food insecurity.”

What is food insecurity exactly? The USDA defines food insecurity as “a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.” Hard to believe, but this is a concern for many of our neighbors right here in DeKalb County.

According to data* from 2017, 16% of our DeKalb County neighbors live at or below the poverty line. The state average is 12%. Now add to these numbers our neighbors who live in “ALICE households.”

“ALICE” is an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed-households that earn more than the Federal Poverty Level, but less than the basic cost of living for the county, according to info provided by Kishwaukee United Way. The number of ALICE households in our county make up 20% of all families. When you add our DeKalb County poverty-level neighbors alongside ALICE households you understand the amount who are struggling to afford just the basics.

Keep in mind these are 2017 numbers. DeKalb County Community Gardens has distributed over one million pounds of free food to our neighbors since 2013; but in 2021 alone, during the pandemic, we distributed over 260,000 lbs. The pandemic hasn’t helped, and neither have the rising costs of food and fuel.

Besides DeKalb County Community Gardens, other organizations that are working to feed our community are the Barb Food Mart, Meals on Wheels, Salvation Army, and twenty-some food pantries at various churches.

After we figure out what we’ll be having for dinner tonight, think about ways we might partner together to help end food insecurity for our neighbors. At DeKalb County Community Gardens we like to say DeKalb County is a Community Garden! Let’s cultivate it together.

Kyle White is an author and illustrator who lives in Sycamore, Illinois. He works with the not-for-profit DeKalb County Community Gardens.